Please use the links below or scroll down the page to find answers to frequently asked questions.
Cost & Financial Aid
Credit for Previous Courses or Experience
1. TESOL, ESL, TEFL, ESOL, EFL, can you explain all these acronyms?
TESOL stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and is probably the most general of these terms. EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language (TEFL = Teaching English as a Foreign Language), and refers to teaching English in a place where it is not widely spoken; where it is a foreign language. ESL stands for English as a Second Language (TESL = Teaching English as a Second Language), and usually refers to teaching English to non-native English speakers in a country where English is widely spoken (like the U.S.) ESOL stands for English for Speakers of Other Languages and is usually used to refer to teaching ESL in K-12 public schools in the U.S. ELT stands for English Language Teaching.
2. Do I have to speak another language?
Knowledge of second language is recommended but not required. It makes sense to have had the experience of having had to do business in another language, so that you personally understand how languages are structured and learned--so you can empathize with your learners. However, especially in the United States, you may find yourself teaching to a classroom of students from over a dozen language backgrounds. There is no way anyone can know all those languages. Therefore we teach you how to teach ESL without having to rely on students' native languages.
3. Do I need a background in linguistics?
No background in linguistics is required or assumed. Almost nobody wants to grow up to be a TESOL Instructor when they are six years old. This is a profession that people often come to later from other backgrounds and disciplines. We'll teach you the linguistics you need.
4. When can I begin?
You may take courses non degree even if you haven't completed the paperwork for one of our programs of study. Later those courses may be rolled into your credential program. Fall semester usually begins on the last Monday in August. It ends early to mid-December. Spring semester begins the third Tuesday in January (right after Martin Luther King Day) and finishes up around mid-May.
The Summer TESOL Institute consists of two seven week sessions of classes (the classes meet twice a week for 2.5 hours instead of meeting once a week as they do in Fall and Spring semesters). The first session runs from mid-May to the end of June and the second session runs from the first of July to the third week in August.
5. What time are courses offered?
The majority of our students work full or part-time, even those who don't have field experience requirements (observations and teaching/tutoring) for their methodology courses. Consequently most of our courses are conveniently offered in the evenings. We do occasionally have afternoon, late evening, and weekend courses, but in most cases, the 3-credit courses meet from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. Our courses typically meet once a week for 2.5 hours in the Fall and Spring semesters, and twice a week (also from 5:30-8:00pm) in the Summer sessions.
6. How many courses should I take per semester?
A full time graduate load is considered nine credits. In the past, some students have done 12 credits per semester, but this is not particularly advised. You have to take a least one credit per semester to maintain matriculation (although when needed, leaves of absence may be arranged). You do not have to maintain matriculation during the summer.
7. How do I enroll in classes?
Contact the TESOL office for details about registering. Be sure to enroll no later than the Friday before classes begin; otherwise you will be charged a $50 late fee.
8. What are the first classes I should take?
Our fundamental courses required for almost all programs are Principles of Linguistics, English Language Teaching I, and English Language Teaching II. Principles of Linguistics and English Language Teaching I (ELT I) are offered every semester. Therefore it would be good to begin with one or both of these courses, adding a third after discussion with your advisor if you are attending classes full time.
9. How long will it take to complete my program?
TESOL Certificate: This program was designed to be completed in two semesters, but it can be completed in a single summer by taking the right combination of five courses (fifteen credits).
MA in TESOL: Designed to be completed in four semesters. For those with significant previous teaching experience (to waive them from ELT III) it is still possible to finish in 15 months by taking courses during the Summer TESOL Institute.
MAT:ESOL: designed to be finished in four to six semesters depending on course availability and arrangement of student teaching assignments.
GC:ESOL: designed to be finished in three to four semesters depending on the student's previous background.
10. Are there other requirements outside of course work for completing the degree programs?
Yes, see the following: MA in TESOL (and the MIP option): (1)Submit a Master's Portfolio consisting of a Philosophy of Teaching statement, a teaching video, and two revised lesson plans and a research paper which you turned in previously as coursework in other classes. (2) Pass an Oral Comprehensive exam. The Oral Comp lasts two hours and takes your Master's Portfolio as point of departure.
MAT:ESOL: You must submit a Master's Portfolio and pass a four hour Written Comprehensive Exam. See the School of Education for details.
11. What are the academic admission requirements?
A 3.0 GPA on all previous course work, and for international students, a minimum of 600 on the paper based TOEFL, 250 on the computer based TOEFL, or 100 on the internet based TOEFL. The GRE is required.
12. What are the steps in the application process?
(1) Complete the online application form, providing a statement of purpose, test scores, transcripts, and recommendation letters as required. The application fee must be paid before your application can be processed.
(2) Your application is scanned into the University computer systems, your GPA is evaluated by professionals, and your application is verified to ensure all necessary documentation is included.
(3) Once your application is verified to be complete, it is forwarded to the academic unit where faculty decide if they feel you should be admitted to their particular program. Typically, they make a decision in two to three days.
(4) Once the academic unit has made its decision, a letter is sent by mail informing you of that decision. You will either be offered or denied admission. If you are denied admission you cannot be reconsidered for one academic year.
Please see also our page describing how to apply.
13. If I'm accepted into the program, but then have to delay enrollment, can I defer admission?
Yes, you can defer admission for up to one year by sending a request to be deferred by email (or regular mail). This request should include the semester you wish to defer to and your reason for deferring.
14. When is the deadline for application?
If you are interested in being considered for Merit Award financial aid you must apply by February 1st of your entry year to begin that Fall, or by November 1st for Spring Admission. There is rarely financial aid for students who begin in the spring or summer semesters. If you are not interested in being considered for Merit Award financial aid, domestic students' applications must be completed and received by the University no later than three weeks before the start of classes. For international students, your application should be completed at least three months before you wish you begin classes.
15. How long does the application process take?
This depends greatly on you. If your application is complete and all official documents have arrived, general processing takes approximately two weeks. Academic evaluation at the Program level usually takes two to three days, and you will typically receive your application decision letter within two to three more weeks.
16. If I don't have time to apply, can I still get started taking classes?
Yes, anyone can take a class at AU, you only have to register and pay your fees and tuition. Then as long as you take no more than 12 credits of classes in this "non-degree" manner, you can apply all of these previous TESOL courses to one of our master's programs. Another option is the TESOL Certificate. To apply for the TESOL Certificate you need only to complete the application and provide transcripts (international students must meet other requirements to obtain their visa.)
Cost & Financial Aid
17. How much does it cost to study in the AU TESOL Program?
As of Fall 2010, graduate tuition will be $1,299 per credit hour. Undergraduate tuition will be $1,205 per credit hour. The TESOL Certificate is a 15 credit program. The MA in TESOL is a 36 credit hour program. The MAT:ESOL is a 39 credit program. In the Master's International Program, candidates only pay for 27 credits. For more information on costs visit the Admissions website.
18. How do I know if I pay graduate or undergraduate tuition rates?
If you already have a bachelor's degree, you automatically pay the graduate certificate rate. Only non-degree courses and courses for the TESOL Certificate may be taken at the undergraduate rate. Courses taken at the undergraduate tuition rate may not be later applied to any of the TESOL master's programs.
19. What kind of financial aid is offered?
American University's Merit Awards include all the types of financial aid awards possible: research assistantships, teaching assistantships, grants, and scholarships. Therefore, if you are not selected as a Merit Award recipient for the semester you wish to begin, there are effectively, no other sources of financial aid available from the university at that time. Merit Awards are usually only available to degree candidates; therefore there is rarely financial aid available for the non degree TESOL Certificate Program.
For more information visit the Financial Aid website.
For a variety of additional resources for non-AU scholarships and funding opportunities go to Scholarship Resources.
20. How do I apply for financial aid?
Simply check the "Yes" box on item where you request to be considered for financial aid on AU's on-line Graduate Application Form and you will automatically be eligible for any type of Merit Award you qualify for.
21. What are my chances of getting financial aid?
In the past four years, 1-3 students per year in the AU TESOL Program have received significant Merit Awards. The primary criterion for Merit Award selection is a candidate's GPA. Clearly, these awards are highly competitive.
22. How much financial aid should I expect to get?
The largest merit awards that students in the TESOL Program have received in the past seven years have covered all tuition and provided a small stipend of $1,000 to $2,000 (per year). Other major awards cover tuition but provide no stipend at all. Thus, no merit award to anyone in our program has been sufficient to cover all of a student's expenses. Therefore you will need supplemental resources to attend AU in order to pay for books, food, housing, travel, and other incidental expenses.
Major financial awards are typically distributed for students starting Fall semester. Occasionally, smaller awards of three, six or nine credits may be available for those entering Spring semester. American University typically reserves merit awards for new students, so once you begin a program of study at AU it is unlikely that you will be considered again for merit awards.
23. What are the different programs of study connected with the AU TESOL Program?
AU offers four TESOL-related master's degree options and two Certificate options.
Traditional Programs of Study: AU TESOL's traditional programs of study include the MA in TESOL, the TESOL Certificate, the Combined BA/MA in TESOL, and the Master's International Program (a variation on AU's MA in TESOL done in conjunction with the Peace Corps, where as part of their program, students earn graduate credit at no cost based on Peace Corps English teaching service).
In these traditional programs you can prepare to teach adults in higher education, in professional settings, in survival English/literacy instruction environments (typically oriented toward recent refugees and immigrants), and to children both abroad and at home. To a large extent, the audience you will be best prepared to teach will be the one you choose to focus on for your assignments, yourprojects, and your field experience.
Stateside K-12 Certification Programs: AU's K-12 Certification Programs are all joint programs with our School of Education. They include the Master of Arts in Teaching: ESOL and the Graduate Certificate in ESOL. Typically in these programs, students take a framework of courses from the School of Education, an additional student teaching component,and a combination of core TESOL courses (those offered by our Program).
24. Which program of study would be right for me?
TESOL Certificate: You can think of the TESOL Certficate like "half a master's degree" (remember if you decide to, you can roll all your Certificate credits into an MA Program if you want to "upgrade"). The value of a TESOL Certificate often depends on what other educational background and experience you have. For example, someone with a K-12 certification in another discipline might only need a TESOL Certificate to begin teaching ESOL students as well; or someone with an international business background could supplement that with a TESOL Certificate and become a very successful Business Englishteacher.
The TESOL Certificate is a very good credential for someone who is looking for a way to support themselves abroad, because it shows that not only are you a fluent speaker of English (a highly desirable characteristic in any other countries) but that you know your way around an ESL/EFL classroom, too. Here in the States, the Certificate is a very good credential for those entering the field of Adult Education ESOL and often for private language schools that teach English. Please note that the TESOL Certificate DOES NOT lead to K-12 state certification.
MA in TESOL: Unless you are genuinely interested in research (and are therefore looking for a PhD in Applied Linguistics - there are few PhD in TESOL programs), the MA in TESOL is the terminal TEACHING degree in our profession. Those with MAs in TESOL are qualified to teach English almost everywhere abroad - in the States, in university intensive English programs, in community college programs, in private school, and in adult education programs. If you're looking for a position (not just a job) in an established institution abroad, especially in developed markets like Europe or Latin America, an MA in TESOL is almost necessary, because for these kinds of positions you need to apply from the U.S., get a visa, and be accepted before leaving.
For international students, the MA in TESOL is often the best choice even if they plan to teach in K-12, because the difference between the MA in TESOL and the MAT:ESOL (which leads to Stateside K-12 certification) is that you have to extra coursework in the MAT to satisfy District of Columbia certification standards. As far as preparing you to teach children, both programs offer very similar preparation.
Master's International Program (the MIP, a joint program with Peace Corps): The Master's International is a wonderful program. People in our profession respect international experience. Sometimes, for our students who have completed the traditional MA in TESOL, they have to work two or three part time jobs, until they can establish themselves as competent teachers in the local TESOL community before getting a full time position. With the MIP you get the best of both worlds, you have your MA credential, but you also have two years of solid overseas experience - experience not just teaching in a secondary school but teaching at a university or doing teacher training. When you complete your entire MIP program, you will be seen as a true professional, and you can apply to those full-time jobs straight away.
Combined BA/MA in TESOL: AU undergraduates in other programs of study may apply to the MA in TESOL program during their Junior year, and if accepted they can take six credits of TESOL coursework which can be applied to both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. This makes it very easy to finish the MA in TESOL in three semesters. Both the traditional MA in TESOL and the Master's International Program can be done through the combined BA/MA in TESOL option.
MAT:ESOL: If you want to teach in grades K-12 in public schools in the States, and you don't already have some teaching experience in that environment, this is the program you should consider. It satisfies all the District of Columbia coursework requirements for public school ESOL licensure (certification), and DC certification is recognized in more than 30 states. In addition to the MAT:ESOL coursework, you will also need to pass the PRAXIS exam, and may have to take additional undergraduate courses depending on your academic background and the jurisdiction you plan to be working in. The MAT:ESOL Program has two 40 hour Practicum components (one associated with each of our two methodologies courses) and a six credit student teaching component.
Graduate Certificate: ESOL: If you already have teaching experience in K-12 public schools in the United States, especially if you've been already been certified in another discipline, you may not need to complete the entire MAT:ESOL Program as the shorter GC:ESOL Program may be sufficient. The GC: ESOL program also offers a 30% tuition discount to qualified applicants. To know if you qualify, contact Amalie Gorbold, School of Education Interim Graduate Student Advisor at email@example.com.
Credit for Previous Courses or Experience
25. Can I transfer in courses?
You can transfer in up to six credits of coursework from another college for any of AU's master's programs, and up to three credits for the TESOL Certificate Program. The courses must have been taken on at least advanced undergraduate/graduate level study (500 level courses at AU, 400 level at some other institutions), they must not have been applied to any other previous degree program, and you must have approval of your AU TESOL advisor. You will probably be asked to provide a syllabus, or at least a comprehensive course description for the course you wish to transfer.
26. Can I get credit for experience?
There is no credit for experience in the TESOL Certificate Program. Those with significant teaching experience can be waived from ELT III, which is required by the MA in TESOL Program. Students in the GC:ESOL and MAT:ESOL program may be waived from some courses based on experience, but this will be determined on a case by case basis.
27. What if I've transferred in all the courses possible, but I have other courses I've taken that correspond to AU TESOL courses. Do I have to take that course again?
Here too, determinations will be made on a case by case basis with your advisor. However, if you've already done similar course work elsewhere we are not going to punish you or make you waste your time by doing it again. Work with your advisor to decide which courses are comparable, and instead of taking the equivalent AU courses, you can take other TESOL elective courses in their place.